Tahini chicken brings health benefits to the table

We often see yogurt-marinated meats such as chicken and fish on Mediterranean menus. We’ve found that marinating chicken in tahini results in melt-in-your-mouth chicken, bursting with flavor. We recommend prepping a big batch of this at the beginning of the week, and pairing it with salads at lunch, steamed veggies, or served hot with a favorite grain on the 21-Day Program.

Mediterranean flavor

Chicken is one of our favorite proteins since it pairs well with many flavor profiles and offers a fantastic source of lean protein. Eating adequate protein is crucial for building muscles, synthesizing hormones, and stabilizing blood sugar. Since protein takes a lot more effort to digest than, say, a simple carbohydrate, it helps slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. This can help prevent a spike (and later a swift drop) in blood sugar. Stable blood sugar is important for mood, steady energy, and weight management. 

Cycle in some sesame seeds

Tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, is an incredible source of essential fatty acids and has a rich, nutty flavor and creamy texture. It’s rich in selenium, phosphorus, fiber, zinc, and iron, just to name a few. Its most notable mineral is copper, an essential nutrient for absorbing iron. Just one tablespoon provides 27% of the daily recommended intake.

Sesame seeds have long been studied for their impact on heart health. Specifically, they have been shown to improve numbers related to blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Just 1.5 tablespoons of sesame seeds or tahini daily are enough to see significant improvement in these markers. One of the ways we test for inflammation in the body is by looking for malondialdehyde levels in the blood. Daily consumption of sesame seeds or tahini over two months decreased malondialdehyde levels in one study. 

Keep it fresh

Pairing high-quality protein with fresh vegetables such as cucumber and onions in this dish completes the meal and adds a healthy dose of antioxidants and fiber to the plate. We love the addition of olives in this recipe, both for their buttery flavor and health benefits. They are rich in vitamin E, antioxidants and have been shown to improve heart health. 

Ingredients:

2 pounds chicken breasts

Marinade:

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 lemons, juiced

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

4-6 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Salt and pepper

Cucumber Salad:

1 cucumber

1/4 red onion

1/2 cup pitted olives

1 lemon, juiced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup parsley

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Step 1: Mince garlic. Remove stems and mince parsley. Juice lemon and discard peel.

Step 2:  Whisk all tahini chicken marinade ingredients together until smooth. Coat chicken evenly with marinade, cover, and let sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours, or up to 8. 

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease grill pan or cast iron pan with avocado oil and heat over medium-high heat. Scrape off excess marinade from chicken and add to the pan, cooking chicken in batches until both sides are golden brown but not cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Add chicken to an oven-proof dish and cook in the oven for 15 minutes.

Step 4: Cut cucumber in half lengthwise, then into slices. Thinly slice the red onion. Cut olives in half. Toss cucumber, onion, and olives with olive oil and lemon juice. Reserve 1/4 of parsley for serving, and toss the rest with the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, top tahini chicken with cucumber salad and remaining parsley.

Recipe and photography by Kaitlyn Noble

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